Thursday, December 13, 2018

His Word Today: Saint Lucy

Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Memorial of Saint Lucy (also known as Lucia of Syracuse (Sicily).  Lucy was born of rich and noble parents, about the year 283 AD.  Her father was of Roman origin, but died when she was only five years old.  Her mother (whose name was Eutychia) was most probably Greek in origin.  Lucy consecrated her virginity to God, but unaware of this consecration, her mother arranged her marriage to a young man from a wealthy pagan family.

Saint Lucy is said to have convinced her mother to give away some of her wealth among the poor, arguing: ... whatever you give away at death for the Lord's sake you give because you cannot take it with you. Give now to the true Saviour, while you are healthy, whatever you intended to give away at your death.

News that the family's patrimony and jewels were being distributed came to Lucy's betrothed who denounced her to the Governor of Syracuse.  In response, the Governor ordered her to burn a sacrifice to the emperor's image.  When she refused, he sentenced her to be defiled in a brothel, but this too was thwarted.  Bundles of wood were then heaped around her and set afire, but they would not burn.  Finally, she died by the sword (in the year 304).

At one time, the feast day of Saint Lucy was associated with the Winter solstice: the shortest day of the year.  For that reason, her feast became most popularly celebrated as a festival of light.  May this young martyr intercede for us, so that we too might be enlightened by heavenly guidance so that we can live our faith today.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

His Word Today: Guadaloupe

Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Feast day of Our Lady of Guadaloupe.  To understand this feast, we must go back in time to December 1531.  There were a series of apparitions that took place.  The first one was on 9 December, when the Virgin Mary appeared to a young peasant by the name of Juan Diego at a place called the Hill of Tepeyac located in the Northern part of present-day Mexico City.  During that first apparition, she asked for a church to be built on the sight where she was seen, but it took four apparitions (on December 9, 10, 11 and 12), each one involving more questions which were asked of the Virgin in order to authenticate her validity.

On 11 December, Juan's uncle - Juan Bernardino - fell ill and by the early morning hours of 12 December, his condition had worsened even more. Instead of keeping his appointment to meet the Virgin Mary, Juan Diego set out for Tlatelolco to fetch a Catholic priest who could hear Juan Bernardino's confession and help minister to him on his death-bed.  Our Lady intercepted him and in response to his concern for his uncle, she responded with the words that have become associated with the apparitions of Guadaloupe: ¿No estoy yo aquĆ­ que soy tu madre? (Am I not here, I who am your mother?).

The Virgin assured Juan Diego that his uncle had been restored to full health and then instructed him to gather flowers from the top of the Tepeyac Hill, which was normally barren, especially in the cold of December.  Following her instructions, Juan Diego was surprised to find Castillian roses - not native to Mexico - growing there.  He gathered them in his tilma (cloak) and took them to the Archbishop of Mexico.  When he opened his cloak, the flowers fell on the floor and the image of the Virgin remained on the fabric.

Juan Diego's tilma now hangs inside the new Basilica of Our Lady of Guadaloupe - the world's most visited Catholic pilgrimage site - to this day.  Between 18 and 20 million pilgrims visit each year, each of them coming to place their petitions at the feet of their mother, hoping that she will hear their prayers and teach them to do as she did: to respond affirmatively to the Lord's invitation and to set out with haste in search of those who are in need (cf Lk 1:39).

The Virgin of Guadaloupe is the Patroness of Mexico and of the Continental Americas.  May she intercede for all of us and teach us how to grow closer to one another and to our heavenly Father.

Have a great day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

HIs Word Today: Power

Good morning everyone,

From the very beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis reminded all of us that authentic power is service (Homily in Saint Peter's Square, 19 March 2013).  Ever since the day of his election, Francis has not only been calling us to be a Church that is focused on service, he is also showing us how to do this.

When Jesus encouraged the disciples to follow the model of a shepherd who would leave the ninety nine in the hills and go in search of a stray sheep (Mt 18:12), he was also calling them to be focused on serving others.  If we want to be authentic models of service, we must constantly be ready to leave the other sheep in the hills - even at the risk that they too might run away - and go in search of those who have gone astray.

Pope Francis has gone in search of the stray sheep by continuing his devotion to rebuilding relationships between the Catholic Church and other Churches as well as other faith traditions.  He has travelled the world in order to gather the lost sheep and to strengthen the weakened ones by reminding all of us that we belong to the same family.  He seizes every opportunity to show us that it is not difficult to open our hearts and to be close to those who are suffering.

Jesus is calling each one of us to be people of service, to allow our words and our lives to be authentic signs of his presence, his love, his joy, his forgiveness.  In this way, we can truly experience this time of Advent as a privileged moment during which we prepare the way for his coming.

Have a great day.

Monday, December 10, 2018

His Word Today: Conditions

Good morning everyone,

The gospels describe a series of moments when human beings encountered Jesus.  In each of those situations, those who were present were given a great privilege: to witness miraculous things.   One day as Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there ... And some men brought ... a man who was paralyzed (Lk 5:17-18).

The men who brought their friend - and the one who was paralyzed too - were hoping that Jesus could help him.  How long had this man lived without being able to walk?  How many times had he dared to hope?  Had he grown tired of thinking that one day he would walk again?  And what about us?  Have we given up on the possibility that miracles can be possible in our situations?

Advent is the season of hope, a time for preparing the conditions for us to be aware of God's presence, a time for us to accept God's invitation for us to open our hearts so that we can recognize these conditions ... so that we can dare to rise and walk (Lk 5:23).

Have a great day.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Something different

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the early Christians was their joy.  The Acts of the Apostles tells us that the disciples were filled with joy (Acts 13:52) as they shared the good news of their faith with those they encountered, but long before Jesus appeared on the scene, others had already spoken of the glory of God that was to come, a robe of righteousness (Bar 5:2) that would make us stand out from the rest of the crowd.

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius (Lk 3:1) another figure stood out as a sign of something wonderful that was to come.  It wasn’t his clothing that made him worthy of note, but rather the words he spoke.  His was a voice of one crying out in the wilderness (Lk 3:4), a voice that may well have been ignored by many but a voice that cried nonetheless, and the message he had to share would also have caused some to take notice: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight ... every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low ... (Lk 3:5).  While many other words spoken during this same time period have long been lost to history, these few stand out.

Some may say that Jesus had a kind of celebrity status, but many other celebrities have faded from the limelight while the words Jesus spoke still remain on the lips of those who follow in his footsteps.  There was something different about Jesus, and since that time, there has always been something different about those who call themselves Christian.  People notice the difference, even if they are not always able to fully understand it.

The difference that has always characterized the disciples of Jesus is the fact that each one of us is deeply and infinitely loved.  It was the realization of being deeply and infinitely loved that ultimately convinced Saint Peter: that made him weep bitter tears when he realized what he had done (cf Mk 14:72).  This same realization, that each of us is deeply and infinitely loved, softens even the most hardened hearts and awakens us to the fact that we are indeed highly privileged.

When we realize the depth of God’s love for us, the only fitting answer is for us to be thankful.  We are thankful to God for the love we have received, and we are thankful for the gift of others who have also been awakened to the joy of knowing that each of us is deeply and infinitely loved by God.  Having encountered this joy, Saint Paul constantly prayed that the one who began this good work in the hearts of his followers would bring it to completion (Phil 1:6).

During this second week of Advent, we pray for the gift of peace: peace in our world, peace in our families, peace among our friends and peace among all those who strive to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  Peace was the gift that the risen Jesus offered to his disciples (cf Jn 20:19, 21).  Peace is the gift that is offered to us, so that like John the Baptist, like the disciples, and like all faithful followers of Jesus, others will notice in our words and actions that there is something different about us.  May they discover the great joy of knowing Jesus, the one who wishes us the gift of his peace.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

His Word Today: the Immaculate Conception

Good morning everyone,

Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.  The Church has always taught that the Blessed Virgin, the mother of our Lord Jesus was herself conceived without sin - in the womb of her mother Saint Anne.  This was a special privilege that was granted through the merits of her Son.  God granted this favour in order to keep her Immaculate.

No one (except God himself) has ever had the chance to choose his or her own mother.  If we did, would we not want to lavish upon her every gift that we could?  Since Jesus was able to choose his own mother, we believe that God granted her the great privilege of being free from sin from the first moment of her conception.  The Church has held this to be true from the very earliest days, but it was not officially defined until 1854 when Pope Pius IX declared it as an infallible statement (ex cathedra).

The Virgin Mary, herself conceived without sin, would eventually be the vessel through which the Lord Jesus Christ, the only son of God ... became incarnate and became Man (cf Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed).  It is the great privilege of Mary's Immaculate Conception that we celebrate today.  Let us turn our gaze heavenward and offer joyful songs of praise for this great grace that was accorded to our heavenly mother.  May she continually intercede for all of us, her children, and accompany us with her prayer until we stand before her Son in the heavenly hallways to sing our praises in heaven.

Have a great day.

Friday, December 7, 2018

His Word Today: Saint Ambrose

Good morning everyone,

A few years ago, I had a chance to visit the city of Milan, and while I was there, I also got an opportunity to kneel and to pray at the tomb of Saint Ambrose.

Aurelius Ambrosius (c. 340 – 397), better known in English as Ambrose was Bishop of Milan.  He became one of the most influential ecclesiastical figures of the 4th century. He was the Roman governor of Liguria and Emilia, headquartered in Milan, before being made bishop of that city by popular acclamation in 374. Ambrose was a staunch opponent of Arianism (a non-trinitarian Christological doctrine which asserts the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was begotten by God the Father at a point in time, a creature distinct from the Father and is therefore subordinate to him.  This belief is contrary to the belief held by the Church: that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father ... (Nicene Creed).

May this holy man of deep and abiding faith continue to intercede for us, that we too might continue to grow in our belief that Jesus, the eternal son of God has the power to grant every one of our desires, if they are for our good, even to restore our sight (Mt 9:27-31) so that we can see as he does.

Have a great day.